The Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Title: Gunslinger Girl
Author: Lyndsay Ely
Publisher: James Patterson
Published: January 2018

26182350_192944431298261_6056002461154410496_nPhoto Credit @stephanieleannebookish

“Welcome to Cessation, Serendipity Jones. The last place on the continent where you can do whatever the hell you want.”

I am not sure what has come over me, but Westerns are my jam right now and it all started with The Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely! The story itself is actually set in the future, though we aren’t given a concrete time, it’s a time that has surpassed technological advances (think Westworld).

Basically, the story is set in North America after the country went through a devastating Civil War. After the war and a shift in power, a new government was established called CONA and they forced the inhabitants of America to live on separated communes, women are sold for large sums of money due to a high infertility rate, and the world resembles the old west once again. Our main character Serendipity “Pity” Jones is a sharpshooter with big dreams, but her abusive father wants to sell her off. As you can imagine, Pity isn’t having it and she runs off to Cessation, a city considered the seedy underbelly of the world, thus our plot begins to unfold!

I highly recommend this to anyone who is apprehensive about Westerns because it doesn’t read as you’d expect. The beginning is a tad slow, but it’s worth it in the end. The plot moves quickly and there are twists and turns around every corner, you never know who to trust, and the political intrigue is unbelievable. At the same time, this story is quirky and full of imagination. Everyone in Cessation must work for their keep and Pity is tasked to join the theater and use her sharpshooting as the star act. While this sounds epically cheesy, it is so much fun.

My personal favorite aspect of this story? The characters! Each character was fleshed out and unique. I lived for the banter and the theater performances and felt like I wanted this band of misfits as my friends. Did I mention that there is a slow-burning and sweet romance?

Overall I gave The Gunslinger Girl a 4/5 and would highly recommend for anyone looking for an action-packed and thrilling read.

–Steph (Woodland Public Library LTA)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razor Bill an imprint of Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 2015

24127162_189630938253992_81536221787979776_n(1)Photo Credit: @stephanieleannebookish

“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a dual perspective desert fantasy. Our first perspective is Laia, and Laia is a Scholar. Scholar are essentially slaves to the empire, although they have some agency within their lives they must live by strict rules of the Empire enforced by the Black Cliff Army or the Masks. Our second perspective is Elias, who happens to be a Mask in training, but he wants to flee the academy as soon as he graduates. And thanks to some unthinkable events, both Laia and Elias are forced to make some hearty decisions which bring them together as one and alter the course of their future for good.

I loved this book. While I know AEITA is very much a foundational book there is no lack of raw grit, emotional turmoil, and realism to the overall plot. Despite the fact that there is a magic system developing and we are seeing small fragments of that system unfolding, AEITA focuses on the intricacies of the relationships established and developing, rather than trying to info dump an entirely new and complex magical system.

Speaking of relationships there’s are a lot of love circles(?) happening within the story, though I will admit it didn’t bother me as much as the typical love triangle. Mainly due to the fact that the love aspect didn’t steal the spotlight, rather the motivations and politics were a more compelling plot point. And if anything the storyline and brutality stole my attention.

As for characters, I loved them all, good or bad, and how they interacted with one another. It says a lot when you’re dying to see what the villain of the story is going to do next. For me, a story needs to have both compelling and complex characters as well as an interesting storyline, although if there are a whole cast of well fleshed out characters I am okay with a lacking plotline, and honestly, AIETA nailed the complex characters as well as character development.

Overall this was one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read and I recommend this to all my fantasy lovers, bearing in mind this is a foundational book.

I gave An Ember in the Ashes a 4.7/5

–Steph (Woodland Public Library LTA)